Rural areas are the fabric of our society and the heartbeat of our economy. They are a core part of our identity and our economic potential. We will cherish and preserve our rural areas and invest in their future.

Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission

What is the long-term vision for rural areas?

The long-term vision for rural areas is an initiative by the European Commission to develop a common European vision for vibrant, connected, and sustainable rural areas by 2040.

In shaping this long-term vision, the Commission will gather the views of rural communities and businesses through public consultations and stakeholder-lead events. The Commission will also embrace the transformative possibilities brought by the research and innovation projects of Horizon 2020.

Through this collaborative and innovative process, the Commission intends to create a wide-ranging vision and a comprehensive rural action plan that will help rural communities and businesses reach their full potential in the coming decades.

Rural areas today

  • 83% of the EU’s territory

Rural areas account for more than 341 million hectares, which represents 83% of the total EU area in 2018. Agricultural land accounts for 42% (174m ha) of the EU’s total area, with forest and natural areas accounting for 45% (186m ha).

  • 30.6% of EU population

Although rural areas are home to almost one third of its citizens, it is an ageing population. Rural and remote areas have the lowest shares of population in age groups below 50 years old.

  • A smaller share of GDP

In the EU-27 in 2018, the average GDP per capita in rural regions was 75% of the EU average (in intermediate regions it was 88%, while in urban regions it was 125%).

  • Lower rates of digital skills

In 2019, only 48% of the EU’s rural residents had at least basic digital skills (compared to 62% in cities).

  • 59% high-speed internet

Despite recent improvements, only 59% of EU rural households have high-speed internet access, compared to 86% for all EU households.

Engaging with stakeholders and citizens

The views of rural communities, farmers and businesses are essential in shaping a rounded vision for the future of rural areas. From the outset, the Commission has worked with the European network for rural development (ENRD), national rural networks and support units, and stakeholder organisations to provide opportunities for sharing views and information with rural stakeholders.

The Commission has also an undertaken an open public consultation, allowing citizens, civil society and stakeholders to share their views, experience and expectations in relation to the Long Term Vision for Rural Areas.

The results of the consultation will be presented during Rural Vision Week, organised and supported by the ENRD. This week-long online event will provide further opportunities for rural stakeholders – and all citizens who have an interest in contributing to a vibrant and viable future of rural areas – to participate, exchange views, and have their say.